Spring discoveries, anxieties, and lessons

By Marsha Gebhardt

I am the lucky caregiver for a seven-month-old Missouri natives garden. As with children, seven-month-olds bring wonder, worry, and a need for much education and effort. It is not easy to walk the Missouri Evening Primrose path, but it is a walk filled with pleasure and purpose.

Planting drawing done by Simon and Monica Barker for the Gebhardt yard

Yard plan, created by Simon and Monica Barker

In late October, 2013, Native Landscape Solutions, Inc. installed a native landscape in my front yard. Simon and Monica Barker designed it after developing a plant list which included more than 200 shade plants (23 species), more than 400 sun-lovers (29 species), and about 10 bushes and trees. The transformation was very exciting, but all too quickly winter came. Five long months later, I started spending inordinate amounts of time bent over to look closely at the tiny beginnings of…what?! The adventure was beginning in earnest.

The discoveries. Everything is new and surprising. Oh, the Wild Geranium is so sweet.  Look how big the Missouri Primrose flower is! Here comes the fringe on my Fringe Tree! Did you see that?! That hummingbird was on the Monarda!

The anxieties. Is the mole/vole/squirrel going to destroy everything? Nothing is happening with the Beauty Berry, the Redbud, and the Itea…. Did they survive the winter? I don’t see any sign of the milkweeds. How about the Indian Pink? Should I water? Is this a “weed,” or an intended plant? Should I be seeing caterpillars and butterflies by now?

The lessons. I am so lucky to have a native plant learning lab in my front yard. It offers me daily ponderings: Why are plants called Coneflowers sometimes Echinacea, sometimes Rudbekia, and sometimes Ratibida? If the new growth of the Beauty Berry starts from the ground, should I leave the branches from the previous year standing? I study. I attend our Wild Ones meetings and yard tours, asking lots of questions. I frequently visit Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) and Shaw Nature Reserve (SNR) taking pictures of labeled plants that are on my “plant list” so I can better recognize them in my yard. I study my books and catalogues. I practice the names of the plants as they appear. Why do I struggle to remember Celandine Poppy?

The experience of having this huge jump-start into native plants is not as intense as being a first-time parent, but there are similarities: the joy, the worry, the efforts to learn enough to properly support those in your care. There is another piece of the analog: These “babies” have the potential to change the world in tiny, positive ways. I am excited to be part of this adventure.

Here are some photos of the process. Click any image for a larger version.

Plant inventory
Below is the plant list Simon and Monica Barker developed and implemented in this yard. The list and design took the following into consideration:

  • Sun and shade. There was a need for large numbers of both sun and shade plants. (The house faces North, so the west side of the yard receives considerably more sun than the east side, which is also heavily shaded by a large Sweet Gum tree.)
  • Structure and “intention.” I wanted the design to be more naturalistic than structured, however since it is a front yard they recommended using some non-native plants that would “stay in place” and provide a sort of frame and suggestion of “intention.”

Editor’s note: Click a column heading to sort the list by that value.

Plant typeLatin NameCommon NameSun/ShadeNative or Not?# plantedSize
ForbAquilegia canadensisWild ColumbineShadeNative101qt
ForbAsarum canadenseWild GingerShadeNative101qt
ForbAster oblongifoliusAromatic AsterShadeNative51gl
Sedges/RushesCarex albicansOak SedgeShadeNative101 qt
Sedges/RushesCarex euburneaCedar SedgeShadeNative101qt
Sedges/RushesCarex muskingumensisPalm SedgeShadeNative101 qt
Sedges/RushesCarex pennsylvanicaCommon Oak SedgeShadeNative101 qt
Sedges/RushesCarex roseaCurly-styled Wood SedgeShadeNative38plug
PerennialDicentra spectabilisBleeding HeartShadeNOT11gl
PerennialDicentra spectabilis 'Alba'Bleeding HeartShadeNOT51gl
ForbEchinacea pupureaPurple ConeflowerShadeNative151qt
ForbEchinacea pupurea 'White Swan'ConeflowerShadeNativar51gl
GrassElymus hystrixBottlebrush GrassShadeNative101qt
GrassElymus villosusSilky RyeShadeNative38plug
ForbGeranium maculatumWild GeraniumShadeNative51qt
ForbHeuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride'Hairy Alum RootShadeCultivar151gl
ForbMertensia virginicaBluebellsShadeNative101 qt
FernOnoclea sensibilisSensetive FernShadeNative53gl
ForbPolemonium reptansJacob's LadderShadeNative21qt
PerennialPolygonatum 'Variegatum'Solomons SealShadeNativar61 gal
FernPolystichum acrostichoidesChristmas FernShadeNative51qt
ForbSenecio obovatusSquaw WeedShadeNative51qt
ForbSpigelia marilandicaIndian PinkShadeNative51qt
ShrubAmorpha canescensLeadplantSunNative11 qt
ForbAmsonia ciliataThread-leaved Blue StarSunNative11gl
ForbAsclepias tuberosaButterfly WeedSunNative51qt
ForbAster laevisSmooth AsterSunNative38plug
ForbAster oolentangiensisSky Blue AsterSunNative38plug
ForbBaptisia australisBlue Wild IndigoSunNative31gl
GrassBouteloua curtipendulaSideoats GramaSunNative38plug
Ornamental GrassCalamagrostis ar. 'Karl Foerester'Feather Reed GrassSunNOT101gl
ShrubCeanothus americanusNew Jersey TeaSunNative13gl
ForbCoreopsis palmataPrairie CoreopsisSunNative101qt
ForbEchinacea pallidaPale ConeflowerSunNative38plug
ForbEryngium yuccifoliumRattlesnake MasterSunNative31qt
ForbGlandularia canadensisRose VerbenaSunNative101qt
ForbHelianthus occidentalisWestern SunflowerSunNative51qt
ForbMonarda bradburnianaWoodland BergamotSunNative38plug
ForbOenothera macrocarpaMissouri Evening PrimroseSunNative101qt
ForbPenstemon digitalisFoxglove BeardtongueSunNative38plug
ForbPhlox paniculataSummer PhloxSunNative41qt
ForbPycnanthemum tenuifoliumSlender Mountain MintSunNative31qt
ForbRatibida pinnataGray-head ConeflowerSunNative101 qt
ForbRudbeckia missouriensisMissouri Black Eyed SusanSunNative101qt
PerennialSalvia nemerosa 'Blue Hill'Hardy SageSunNOT61gl
PerennialSalvia nemerosa 'Caradonna'Hardy SageSunNOT61 gl
GrassSchizachyrium scopariumLittle Bluestem GrassSunNative101 qt
PerennialSolidago 'Golden Baby'GoldenrodSunNativar101qt
GrassSporobolus heterolepisPrairie Dropseed GrassSunNative301qt
PerennialStachys 'Grandiflora'StachysSunNOT21qt
PerennialStachys 'Hummelo'StachysSunNOT81qt
ForbZizia aureaGolden AlexandersSunNative38plug
Flowering TreeAmelanchier canadensisShadblow ServiceberryNative115 gl
Flowering TreeRhamnus carolinianaIndian CherryNative17gl
Small TreeAsimina trilobaPaw PawNative25gl
ShrubBuxus 'Green Gem'BoxwoodNOT73gl
ShrubCallicarpa americanaAmerican Beauty BerryNative23gl
Flowering TreeCercis canadensisRedbudNative1clump
ShrubHydrangea arborescensSmooth HydrangeaNative33gl
ShrubHypericum prolificumShrubby St.John's WortNative12gl

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